While NFL fans are getting ready to settle in for their main Thanksgiving helpings, it will be comforting to know that an NFC East battle will be playing out in Dallas in the background. The Cowboys will host the New York Giants this year in Dallas’ annual Thanksgiving contest, and will be heading into the matchup on a high note. The Cowboys throttled the Minnesota Vikings 40-3 in the most resounding win of Week 11. New York was outplayed at home by the Detroit Lions on Sunday, falling 31-18.
Here are three things to look for in this important divisional battle.
The Vikings had trouble getting anything going against Dallas on Sunday, and they were demoralized early thanks to the play of Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons. He was all over the field on Sunday, sacking Kirk Cousins twice in the early part of the game. Not many teams have answers for such a special player, as the former Penn State star continues to make his strong case for NFL Defensive Player Of The Year.
The Giants actually did a pretty decent job limiting Parsons’ impact during the first meeting between these two teams. He only recorded one tackle amidst New York’s game plan to try and stop him. Parsons will probably be more effective on Thursday, but can’t be a game wrecker if the Giants are going to have any shot at winning.
New York’s Ground Game
The Giants’ already thin receiving corps was dealt an additional blow on Sunday, as rookie pass catcher Wan’Dale Robinson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. It’s been a difficult campaign for New York on that front, dealing with ineffectiveness as well as a barrage of injuries to that unit.
It’s not anything new for New York, but they’ll have to rely even more on the legs of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. On paper, their best chance to generate offense will center around confusing a defense with run-pass options and the threat of either player to carry the football. Both players were effective on the ground in the first meeting, with Jones accounting for 79 yards rushing, while Barkley had 81 yards and a touchdown.
An Unlikely Dallas Star
Despite the Cowboys’ efforts to convince themselves and the general public that Ezekiel Elliott is the key player in their backfield, it’s been impossible to ignore the electric play of Tony Pollard week in and week out. The “reserve” ballcarrier did it again on Sunday, scoring two long receiving touchdowns against Minnesota, where he wasn’t touched on either play.
While Elliott may continue to get the initial carries each week to earn the start, Pollard’s effectiveness has been too good for the team to ignore. Especially on a short week, it feels likely that the young playmaker will have even more of a chance to shine as the team continues to nurse Elliott’s balky knee through the season.